Five speakers address political reality at legislative summit

The Southwest California Legislative Council presents five speakers, Sen. Richard Roth, Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff, Dr. Martin Gallegos Sr., Jamil Dada and Lou Monville Sr., to local business and community leaders at their “Political Reality 2017-2018” event held Oct. 3 at South Coast Winery and Resort. Courtesy photo

The Southwest California Legislative Council invited five speakers to their annual summit to discuss “Political Reality 2017-2018.” The event was held at South Coast Winery & Resort Tuesday, Oct. 3, and was attended by hundreds of local business and community leaders.

State Sen. Richard Roth of the 31st District shares his view of the state budget and recent legislation. Courtesy photo

California State Senator Richard Roth of the 31st District

Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, shared highlights of the 2017 legislative year, focusing on the budget, which he characterized as “a constant fight: the governor takes it out, we put it back in.” The former U.S. Air Force major general described his role as providing “recognition, respect, resources” relating to policy, awarding money and supporting programs.

California’s current budget is $125 billion. Reserves this year are estimated to be $8.4 billion and growing up to $12 billion in 2020-2021.

Health care legislation redirected $546 million for alternative health care services and restored $100 million for medical residencies to attract and keep more doctors.

“We are medically underserved,” Roth said.

The Legislature restored funding to Work for Warriors, a veterans program with a 70 percent placement rate that has put 5,900 veterans into jobs. They are proposing a $1 billion veterans housing bond for the next ballot.

They have approved $10 million to fight the invading citrus disease that was devastating to Florida crops. They are spending $413 million to build a new California Air Resources Board facility at University of California Riverside, which is expected to provide 400-500 jobs and attract business relocation to the area.

The Cal Grant program has been revised to address nursing programs and the shortage in that field.

“We are vastly underserved.” Roth said. “There is a 270 judge shortage in California and 189 are in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. It was a herculean fight over five years to get four new judgeships for this area.”

The Legislature restored funding that had been taken away by the state to four Riverside County cities.

“We are the sixth largest economy in the world with 40 million people, and there is not enough money to address all the issues of our stakeholders,” Roth said, mentioning the severe housing shortage, mental health funding, homelessness, healthcare programs and costs, jails and corrections, funding higher education and cannabis.

“We have more and more population, but less money,” Roth said.

Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff speaks about the difficulties his department faces with prison and jail overcrowding and being short-staffed. Courtesy photo

Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff

Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff heads the second largest sheriff’s department in California with 4,600 full-time staff that oversees countywide patrol operations, jail operations, court security, coroner investigations and public administration.

“As Riverside County has continued to grow at a rapid pace, the demand for our public services has also grown,” Sniff said. “But budget constraints – $40 million budget cuts – have forced us to downsize. We are down to 3,800 officers in the field and funded; 400 were lost in the last 20 months.”

Sniff said that the AB109 has shifted the burden to county jail systems not equipped to handle the needs of long-term populations like mental and physical health care. The measure has resulted in 40,000 premature releases.

In response to the racial identity and profiling issue, AB 953 was passed in 2015 and will take effect in January 2018, requiring data collection by officers upon detention or contact. Collection requires 30-40 minutes of work by the contacting officer as well as the work to review the report before submission to the state. Sniff said he feared that the additional requirements will result in “de-policing” like in Chicago.

Sniff said Sanctuary State Bill (Senate Bill 54) is “not a big issue for the police department,” since the sheriff’s department doesn’t enforce federal law.

“Major tragedies in this country, like 9/11, have shown that sharing of information is critical at the local, state and federal level. It does have a big impact on us at the county jail, however, in working with ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement). The booking system sends digital prints electronically to multiple agencies.

Sniff said the redefining of certain felonies to misdemeanors with reduced penalties under Prop 47 is more of a policy issue for his department and he wondered if it was right to put offenders such as “serial thieves, chronic drug abusers and known gang members back into the community.

Dr. Martin Gallegos Sr. discusses the effect of the healthcare crisis on the political landscape. Courtesy photo

Dr. Martin Gallegos Sr., vice president of policy development and communications, for the Hospital Association of Southern California

“Health care has become political,” Dr. Martin Gallegos of the Hospital Association of Southern California said. “And politics more than policy will impact health care. Politics will also impact the ability to provide services. Now more than ever, it is important to be involved politically.”

Decisions made at the federal level will impact the Affordable Care Act, the workforce through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, Medi-Cal and Medicare reimbursement, Disproportionate Share Hospital programs, hospital Medi-Cal fee waiver, physician payment through Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, readmission policies and bundled payments.

“For example, on Medi-Cal and Medicare reimbursement, employers pay higher premiums because the government underfunds the program,” Gallegos said. “The cost shift was 22 percent under ACA, but under new proposals who knows how much more of the difference employers will have to pick up?”

At the state level, the issues are single payer, hospital pricing, not-for-profit Hospital Governance, hospital executive compensation and unfunded mandates and regulations.

“A recent poll shows that more and more doctors and administrators – 58 percent — are moving toward accepting the concept of single payer,” Gallegos said. In the single-payer system, the government uses taxes to pay healthcare costs for all.

Healthcare will be a campaign issue in 2018,” Gallegos said. “There are nine Republican Congressional targets in California. Republicans will be playing defense, solidifying the base and looking to maintain majorities in D.C.”

In the upcoming statewide elections, Gallegos outlined a number of issues. There are recall efforts against Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, and Orange County state Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton. He said the Democrat super majorities will be targets and that tax increases shouldn’t hurt Democrats, but is unsure if Republicans will target Republicans for cap-and-trade votes.

“It will be a rocky, bumpy and uncertain road through 2017 and 2018 elections with many looking to the big prize, long-term vision to the 2020 presidential elections,” Gallegos said.

Jamil Dada praises resourcefulness of the Air Force for making the most out of March Air Force Reserve Base in these times of budget cutbacks. Courtesy photo

Jamil Dada, vice president of investment services, for Provident Bank and the Air Mobility Command Advisory Board

“There are 56 bases in the U.S., and 14 are Air Force Reserve bases that cost half the money to operate because of the reservists,” Jamil Dada of the Air Mobility Command Advisory Board said. “March Air Force Reserve Base is one of the largest, with 9,000 airmen and is a joint-use base, serving every branch. This base has more strategic missions than most active bases.”

The Air and Marine Operations Center, the only one of its kind, serves multiple missions including law enforcement and disaster recovery. Defense Media Activity provides direct line of communication for news and information to U.S. forces worldwide. The 163rd Air Reconnaissance Wing runs the nation’s only school for remotely piloted aircraft, MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reapers. March Air Force Reserve Base is also one of four intercept bases with four F-16’s on base. They also have C-17 cargo planes and KC-135 refueling tankers.

“The military doesn’t shut down missions,” Dada said. “They just move them to areas with lower overhead costs. Most bases are trying to avoid BRAC.”

March Air Force Reserve Base just received $11 million in new funding to redo their flight tower and $17 million for a new deployment facility, he said. Forty percent of all troops and personnel sent to Iraq and Afghanistan flew out of March Air Force Reserve Base.

AMOC is expanding by 200 workers, Dada said.

The Boeing KC-46 Pegasus will be arriving as a replacement for the KC-135s that were first put in service sixty years ago. There are 300 KC-135s still operational in the U.S. Air Force. They have paid for 179 KC-46s with another 179 on order. The new planes feature bulletproof cockpit armor, bulletproof fuel tanks, 1,200 gallon per minute fueling capacity, seating for fifteen, defensive systems, infrared countermeasures, night-vision refueling and missile-deflecting flares instead of heat-seeking missiles. The planes are configurable for different missions, including cargo and medical transport, Dada said.

“This would BRAC-proof our base,” Dada said.

Lou Monville Sr. shares his experience with the California State University system’s overcrowding and the various local means for alleviating that squeeze. Courtesy photo

Lou Monville Sr., vice president of Raincross Corporate Group

Lou Monville Sr. is the immediate past chairman of the board of trustees of the California State University system, the largest university system in the United States with 23 campuses and eight off-campus centers serving over 475,000 students and employing 49,000 faculty and staff.

“This area is blessed with two great partners – California State University San Marcos and Mt. San Jacinto College – that help address educational goals of baccalaureate degrees and workforce training and job skill education,” Monville said. “The CSU system has two challenging issues. The first is acute – capacity. We are statutorily obligated to accept students who have a 3.3 GPA in the A through G curriculum and are in the top one-third of their high school class. Last year, 30,000 students met the criteria and were not admitted due to capacity. Students are being left behind. The Inland Empire is the largest metro area with the lowest attendance.

“Senators would love to give us more money to educate our kids, but they just don’t have it,” Monville said. “More and more, I hear about the need for tuition increases; dollar-for-dollar a CSU education is still a great value.”

The second issue challenging the California State University system is remedial education, and this issue needs clarification, Monville said.

“California State University San Marcos is not getting rid of it; they are correcting a long-time wrong,” Monville said. “We are retiring the English Placement Test and the Entry Level Mathematics Test, and reducing noncredit-bearing, pre-baccalaureate courses. The simple answer is credit-bearing, course redesign for skills development and efficiency and still maintain time to degree.”

According to the Brookings Institution’s Metro Monitor 2017 that tracks economic performance of the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas along three dimensions – growth, prosperity and inclusion, the Riverside and San Bernardino metro areas ranks 22, 31 and 68, respectively. Monville said these numbers indicate economic development that encourages long-run growth, average rise in standard of living and a greater need for inclusion of both race and education.

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